Wednesday, March 28, 2007
She was dubbed "La voix la plus limpide du Zaire" (The most limpid voice of Zaire). limpid \LIM-pid\, adjective:
1. Characterized by clearness or transparency; clear; as, "a limpid stream."
2. Calm; untroubled; serene.
3. Clear in style; easily understandable.
This word perfectly describes the vocal stylings of Mpongo Love.
Aimee Fransoise Mpongo Lanu was born in 1956 in Boma, when Zaire was still The Belgian Congo. It seems only natural that The Voice of the Bas-Zaire woman be born at the mouth of the Congo River. Poetic in a way. At four years old she was given a penicillin shot for polio. An allergic reaction rendered her paralyzed. About two years later she regained use of her legs (although they were deformed) and she started school at Notre Dame de Boma where she joined the chorus.
As a teenager she worked at a Mazda Dealership. While working there through her friend she met saxophonist for Rochereau Tabu Ley, Deyes Empompo. Together Empompo and Mpongo form the band Tscheke Tscheke Love. Empompo recruits musicians to compose songs for Mpongo. At 19 she takes on the name Mpongo Love, taking 'Love' from the english for her french name 'Aimee'. 1976 she has an instant hit with "Pas Possible Maty". She performs at her first concert that year openning for Zaiko Langa Langa at the Cine Palladium. Her clear yet nasal voice, acute with emotion and precise intonation added to the subject matter of her songs gained her much deserved popularity. She began writing her own songs. Songs such as Ndaya, which promoted the idea of polygamy, caused a scandal but was a success among the Kinois public particularly with woman. She wrote several other songs, Monama Elima, Ka Pwe Pwe, Marketing International, Etc showing her dedication to her craft.
She gains even more popularity and success after her first tour which included shows in Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville and West Africa. She performed at Festac '77, an African Arts Festival in Ikeja, Nigera. She joins L'Ochestre National Du Zaire which the Minister of Cultural affairs of The Republic of Zaire created.
In that year the hate also came. A song released by fellow Diva du Zaire and popular vocalist, Abeti Masikini released the song "Bilanda landa" (roughly translated: follow follow). The public's false interpretation of the lyrics causes a beef between the two songstresses. They took the lyrics to mean Masikini was saying in spite of the success that Love has garnered she's just an imitator, follower. (Musical beefs transend, predate, and aren't limited to, Hip Hop. Just an observation :))
Mpongo came back with the song "Koba" in which she says "Okeyi kotuna nganga soki ozalaka na lisuma, lisuma te, motema na yo mbindo" ("You went to ask the soothsayer if you were cursed. you're not cursed, you have a bad heart"). This song, naturally, angered Masikini. Their rivalry continued strong until senior Kalonji Ngoy of Television National made them reconcile on the televised music show "Chronique".
In 1980 she leaves Empompo to manage her own career. Tcheke Tcheke Love is musically guided by Merry, former musical director of the army's orchestra "Orfaz". Love, writes and produces music under her new label "Love Music". She takes her act to Ivory Coast where she performs concerts at The Poliomyelitis Center. This brings her recognition throughout Africa.
Her international success comes when she releases the album "L'Afrique Dans Avec Mpongo Love" (Africa Dances With Mpongo Love). She had hits with titles "Vivre Avec Toi" "Yoko" and "Rebe". She modernized her sound on the album "Partarger" with synthesizers and percussions and her subject matter more hopelessly romantic. Though she continues to create songs that tell other stories such as "Femme Commerciante" which talks about the bravery of women, "Fetiche Mpongo" as song for her mother. Towards the late '80s she settled in Gabon, Africa.
She had suffered a long time before she settled in Gabon, of cerebral meningitis. She relocated back to Zaire. After spending weeks in the University of Kinshasa Hospital she passed away January 15, 1990. Then ended the life of a woman who made a huge mark on the male dominated industry and culture of Congolese Music, who made incredible music despite her bouts with illness and had a great business mind that allowed her to succeed in what she did. Her heart wrenching voice only to be heard on record (cd or mp3...).
Mpongo Love is a legend.
Since my father played "Monama Elima" on the show this past saturday I haven't been able to stop listening to it. I feel like this song is perfection. Everything is right with it and nothings wrong lol. I just wish I knew EXACTLY what she was saying. I can kinda get the gist but it would be good to know it all. I'm learning though.
but anyway here is an mp3 of Monama Elima in all of it's glory. This song to me is what makes Mpongo Love so great. Enjoy:
MPONGO LOVE - MONAMA ELIMA
Here is a television performance from the '80s:
Tantine Mpongo Love, R.I.P.
***For this entry I pretty much translated the following pages:
(My intent is not to plagerize but have this information reach more people)***